Despite regulations, asbestos-related cancer deaths still common

Findings from an analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control could prove worrying for residents of Ohio and others across the nation. The CDC found that each year thousands of people are still dying from mesothelioma, a type of cancer associated with asbestos inhalation. This despite the fact that the material has been under regulation for decades to try to curb the fatalities associated with exposure to the dangerous material.

Asbestos is a naturally-occurring substance containing tiny fibers that can cause mesothelioma or other lung cancers and diseases when inhaled or swallowed. After asbestos inhalation, mesothelioma can take anywhere from 20 to 70 years to develop. In 1971, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration began regulating how much of the material people could be exposed to, and the Environmental Protection Agency has its own asbestos regulations as well.

However, despite these regulations, the CDC analysis found that there were over 45,000 mesothelioma deaths in the U.S. between 1999 and 2015. While the greatest increase in deaths were among those over the age of 85 -- who were most likely exposed to asbestos before regulations took effect -- investigators say that the asbestos-related deaths of those younger than 55 indicates that workers are still being exposed to hazardous levels of the substance. This could, investigators speculate, be due at least in part to what is sometimes known as "third wave" asbestos disease; that is, people other than the original workers who are exposed to the material years after it was installed, when it gets stirred up during renovations or demolitions.

This cannot, however, account for even close to the total number of deaths. Alarmingly, asbestos is still being used in the manufacturing of new products, like chemicals used to make items such as batteries, fertilizer, soap and other common products. CDC researches note that 20 percent of construction industry air samples collected in a 2003 compliance study exceeded by the permissible asbestos exposure limit set by OSHA. Residents of Ohio who have developed any sort of cancer or lung disease, or who have lost a loved one due to workplace exposure to the hazardous chemical, may do well to consult an attorney with experience in asbestos litigation to discuss their legal rights.

Source: NPR, "Asbestos Deaths Remain A Public Health Problem", April 11, 2017

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